Online trading platform Robinhood and the role it played in recent stock rallies in firms such as GameStop have brought the focus back on to online trading.
Over the last few weeks, the platform has faced the ire of top US financial watchdogs who have accused the firm of using “aggressive tactics” to lure newbie investors. While the event has caused many to question the regulatory framework around these apps, it showcases one important fact – the rising popularity of these platforms.
How did online trading start?
In 1984, financial services firm Charles Schwab introduced the industry's first DOS-based portfolio management and trading tool. Subsequently, Schwab proceeded to implement TeleBroker, the first telephone-based phone keypad trading application in 1989, and StreetSmart, a Windows-based PC investment software package in 1993.
However, Internet-based trading was first founded outside of the mainstream discount brokerage firms. E*Trade was launched in 1992 as a pioneering online brokerage service provider. The company, which initially began as a provider of back-office online processing services, soon adopted a direct-to-consumer strategy.
In 1995, E*Trade derived over 80 per cent of its revenues from trading commissions and became the first online brokerage firm.
Some of the popular stock trading platforms in the UAE
With more than 48 million registered users, IQ Option follows the latest financial regulations, allowing users to deal in different assets like forex, stocks, binary options, and cryptocurrencies.
Users have defined the trading experience as smooth. The platform’s high-level functionality makes it a good fit for professional traders, but given its easy-to-use interface, beginners too can start trading right away.
The app was updated to ensure that UAE clients get the advanced tools and platforms, which are available to other international customers.
Minimum deposit: Dh36.73 ($10)
Ireland-based AvaTrade is a global CFD and FX broker founded in 2006. It is regulated by several financial authorities, such as the Central Bank of Ireland. AvaTrade offers various deposit and withdrawal options which are free of charge. It also has diverse and user-friendly research tools.
On the flip side, the product portfolio is limited as it offers only CFDs for forex, stocks, commodities and cryptos. Inactivity fees are high. Forex trading fees are not lower than the average.
When it comes to non-trading fees and on the negative side, AvaTrade has an inactivity fee of $50 (Dh183) per quarter after 3 consecutive months of inactivity.
On top of that, after 12 consecutive months of non-use, an annual administration fee of $100 (Dh367) will be deducted. Inactivity related fees combined are high compared to AvaTrade's peers.
If you are an experienced trader, you can request AvaTrade to open a Professional Trading account, where the leverage is higher than the Standard account. This requires relevant experience in the financial sector, sufficient trading activity in the past 12 months and a portfolio value of at least 500,000 euros (Dh2.2 million).
Minimum deposit: Dh367 ($100)
Denmark-based Saxo Bank’s online trading platform is considered widely popular as well. In the different regions it operates, like the UAE, its subsidiaries are present in the form of separate legal entities. The services offered by each entity might change slightly, especially in case of their fees and products available to trade.
Although it is recommended for its user-friendly trading platform, having considerably more research materials and a broad portfolio of products, drawbacks include a much higher minimum deposit, lack of a live customer service chat facility.
When compared to its peers, trading and non-trading fees (including charges not directly related to trading, like withdrawal fees or inactivity fees) at Saxo Bank are at par. The fees for forex, mutual funds and stock index CFDs are lower than usual, while they are relatively the same for real stocks, ETFs or stock CFDs. and comparatively higher fees for trading bonds, options and futures.
Some other perks include lower fees for its loyal customers, no withdrawal fees (withdrawing money from your trading account) and lower than usual fund fees (incurred by investors who hold funds). However, a downside, like most of its rivals, is that it charges for inactivity in your trading account.
The estimated commission on a $2,000 (Dh7,345) trade, assuming $50 (Dh183) is the price of a US stock, it costs an average of $10 (Dh36). Similarly, for a UK stock, it would cost about $10 (Dh36).
Minimum deposit: The opening deposit is $10,000 (Dh36,730)
Based in Melbourne, Pepperstone is a Forex and CFD broker, known for having a wide range of trading platforms. Users can trade many assets including forex, CFDs, cryptocurrencies, indexes, shares, and commodities. This broker can be used by traders at all levels, from beginner to advanced. It is an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA)-regulated broker with segregated client funds.
Pepperstone offers MetaTrader and cTrader trading platforms with several self-developed add-ons. They do not have a proprietary mobile platform, but instead use MT4 and cTrader mobile apps.
Minimum deposit: $200 (Dh734)
Olymp Trade has been operating as an online options trading provider since 2014. Over the years, it has multiplied its client base and is available in several countries, including in the UAE. The platform has 25 million user accounts and a monthly turnover of $150 million.
Olymp, which recently added forex trading to its platform, allows users to trade options and forex on the same platform without switching between accounts. Once you install the programme, it starts with a brief interactive tutorial that gives users a quick education on the fundamentals of investing in stocks and commodities.
Minimum deposit: $10 (Dh36.73)
ExpertOption began providing services to traders in 2014 and currently has over 30 million deals each month. With over 9 million accounts, it offers users a wide range of trading platforms, with the option to trade via the web, mobile app or dedicated desktop app.
While most brokers make use of an existing platform to save time, ExpertOption has created its own platform, which is fully customisable and can be tailored to the needs of each client. This means that all features from ExpertOption can be easily integrated, irrespective of whether the user is trading via a desktop or mobile device.
Minimum deposit: $50 (Dh183.66)
Why do some apps work in UAE and some don’t?
A point to keep in mind is that not all international trading platforms, like TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers, can be used by investors in UAE. In the UAE, there is a list of licensed operators.
Regulations in UAE
Dubai Financial Market (DFM) offers an elaborate list of online brokers on their website.
DFM also provides a regularly-updated list ranking top brokers in the region. For users in the UAE, while ADSS (online broker) does not charge a commission for buying and selling stocks, a number of platforms like Plus500, Forex.com and Oanda charge comparatively lower fees.
Other government bodies such as the Dubai Financial Services Authority, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates also regulated online brokers.